Bread is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, and is never missing from the table.

Panini celebrates the many forms of Italian bread with a delicious range of recipes that reflect the flavors of traditional Italian cuisine, with fresh, seasonal, Mediterranean ingredients.

From the rustic Panini or the traditional Bruschetta to the popular Tramezzini, Panini is packed with ideas to bring the Italian passion for this simple, shared, staple food to your own table.

Italian author Veronica Lavenia is an international food writer and columnist. In Panini Veronica has included traditional family recipes that have been used for many generations, together with recipes born out of a personal experience that helped her to discover how useful it is to share tasty and healthy ideas.

Veronica loves to cook what she grows in her family garden and explore new culinary possibilities and alternatives, together with ingredients that are affordable and easily available.

New Holland Publishers Australia
Author: Veronica Lavenia
ISBN: 9781742576947
RRP: $30.00

Interview with Veronica Lavenia

Question: Why did you decide to create the cookbook, Panini?

Veronica Lavenia: Being an Italian writer, I chose one of the staple dishes of my country: stuffed bread. Panini are a very democratic food, easy and quick to prepare, ideal for a salty and/or sweet snack or for casual dining. In addition, a Panino (singular of "Panini"), made with simple and seasonal ingredients, can be a very healthy dish, in full respect of the Mediterranean Diet, the symbol of the Italian good life and heritage.

Question: What should we expect from Panini?

Veronica Lavenia: The reader will find a very elegant book, from great-looking, with stunning photos.

You will find 60 delicious recipes (sweet and savory), divided into 4 sections ("Bruschetta"; "Panini"; "Tramezzini" and "Toast"). Each recipe features seasonal ingredients; many of them are vegetarian and some even vegan. Since this is a book of Italian Panini, there are also recipes with Salami for which Italy is famous all over the world. The recipes belong from the Italian tradition, from my family tradition and the Italian contemporary way of eating.

Question: Which of the recipes featured brings back the most memories, for you?

Veronica Lavenia: Each recipe, even the most modern (such as those prepared with Seitan or Tofu, recently entered in the Italian vegetarian diet) has a meaning and importance to me. When I was little, my mother often prepared "Chocolate and hazelnut tramezzini" and "Panini with butter and ham", for a snack or for the birthday parties of us daughters. "Bruschetta" with Pistachio pesto" is a very popular appetizer in Sicily, where I was born and raised, and it reminds me of all the times when, with my parents, we went to buy the prized Sicilian pistachios from Bronte, a small village on the slopes of Mt. Etna. "Panini with seitan burger and Crescenza cheese" or "Tramezzini with tofu sauce" brings me back to the years when I began to prefer the best of vegetarian cuisine, creating healthy and tasty Mediterranean recipes.

Question: Which recipe do you suggest I cook first to impress my family?

Veronica Lavenia: The true Italian cuisine is made with very few simple ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, vegetables, cereals and cheese. The Italians do not like elaborate dishes. Our motto is, less is more. The secret to "impress" consists, first of all, in choosing quality ingredients. Rustic bread, freshly baked and seasoned only with excellent Italian extra virgin olive oil is the most simple and loved recipe by Italians and foreigners trying our oil. Panino with Sicilian caponata, can be a great idea. Caponata is one of the staple of Sicilian cuisine. Mortadella and burrata is another mouthwatering suggestion you will find in the book. Mortadella (or Bologna), sold in the best Italian food shops as Burrata a creamy cheese, from Apulia Region, similar to mozzarella, match perfectly with a rustic crunchy bread.

Question: If you were having a dinner party, this weekend, what would you cook?

Veronica Lavenia: It depends on the type of party (if only for adults or for children. If you are celebrating a birthday or other). For an informal dinner party with friends, that does not create too much anxiety to the home cook and meets the eyes and palate, I would suggest to start some bruschetta appetizers: carrot sauce and Sicilian capers; extra virgin olive oil and walnuts; raddicchio and stracchino cheese.

Dark Chocolate and Hazelnuts

I love chocolate and I love all the recipes in which it is the hero. The intense aroma combined with the special texture of rustic bread that, even if soaked in milk, keeps the right texture.

It was one of my breakfasts as a child. Even today, it remains an exquisite break I allow myself whenever possible.

Serves 4

150 g (5 oz) dark chocolate 70%
4 slices toasted bread
2 eggs
125 ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) milk (or rice milk, if intolerant)
60 g (2¼ oz) light brown sugar
a pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla powder 'Bourbon"
1 tbsp butter (or 1 tbsp organic sunflower oil cold pressed)

Melt chocolate, spread it on four slices of bread and close with the other slices of remaining bread.
Add the eggs, milk, sugar, pinch of salt, vanilla and mix well.
Dip the bread slices in the batter.
Grease a frying pan with butter or oil and brown the bread on both sides.
Serve hot

Radicchio and Salami

This is a rich tramezzino – full of the tastes of winter and the delicious aromas of northern Italy.

Italian radicchio is highly prized. Its distinctive flavor is bold yet refined, making it difficult to replace. It is this that makes this recipe so special.

Serves 2

4 radicchio leaves
4 tbsp Crescenza cheese (or other soft chese)
2 slices salami (if possible choose organic and nitrate free)
4 slices tramezzini white crustless bread

Clean and wash the radicchio leaves and cut it into thin slices.
Cut the tramezzini into two halves, spread soft cheese, add radicchio and salami.

Interview by Brooke Hunter